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What is Paleo?

First and foremost I don’t believe Paleo is a diet. It’s a change in lifestyle. A choice to eat real foods, instead of processed foods. Processed food is fast becoming the norm. Give me fast, give me cheap, give me convenience.  How often do you see sauces made from scratch. Long gone are our hunter and gatherer days.

Fundamentally Paleo is based on the concept of avoiding foods that inflame our digestive system. An inflamed digestive system leads to a weakened immune system, making it easy for bacteria from the outside world to invade. Eating Paleo also means consciously deciding to eat foods that are nutrient dense. Do you use premium unleaded or some no frill petrol (gas) in your car?  Obviously the better the fuel, the better the performance. Why wouldn't this theory apply to our bodies?

What is Paleo? | Wodnut

Why are we getting fat?

Before getting into the nuts and bolts about Paleo let's talk about why we are getting fat. Australia is ranked as one of the fattest nations in the developed world. The prevalence of obesity in Australia has more than doubled in the past 20 years. In actual fact we are ranked the fourth-highest population in the world that is likely to suffer from type-2 diabetes. Some interesting facts:

  • Fourteen million Australians are overweight or obese.
  • More than five million Australians are obese (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m). Read More
  • If weight gain continues at current levels, by 2025, close to 80% of all Australian adults and a third of all children will be overweight or obese. Read More
  • Obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia. Read More
  • Obesity has become the single biggest threat to public health in Australia.
  • On the basis of present trends we can predict that by the time they reach the age of 20 our kids will have a shorter life expectancy than earlier generations simply because of obesity.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are 1.9 times as likely as non-indigenous Australians to be obese.

Source: Modi Monash University

So what has changed? Why is this pattern repeated world wide amongst other developed nations like America. It appears that it is deep rooted into our history and economy. Below is a summary of what I consider to be some instigators:

  • Farmers are encouraged by government subsidies to give you high-fructose corn syrup, fast food, animal factories, monoculture, and a host of other contributors to our unhealthy contemporary diet. A report comparing federal subsidies of fresh produce and junk food, prepared by the US PIRG (a non-profit organization that takes on special interests on behalf of the public), revealed where your tax dollars are really going and it's quite shocking: If you were to receive an annual federal subsidy directly, you would receive $7.36 to spend on junk food and just 11 cents to buy apples. In fact $0.92c of every dollar goes into the manufacturing and packaging process rather than the farmer Source: Hungry for Change
  • For those old enough, remember the food pyramid? Grains at the bottom and fat on top. Well the Paleo Diet turns this on it's head. In actual fact to be healthy, it's the exact opposite. I taken a look at today's Australian Government's recommended dietary guidelines and as of 2013 this is what I found. 

Australia Dietary Guidelines 2013

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    • Grains continues to be 1/3 of the recommended daily diet.
    • Reduced Fat Dairy is encouraged.
    • High fat food should be avoided. Aka coconut oil.
  • It's amazing that governments worldwide continue to make similar recommendations. I wonder how much of it is economy driven. After all wheat is the #1 Australian export and representing $6350m FY2012.  Saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources, such as coconut oil, avocado and grassfed or sustainable meat are important carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K. They are needed for mineral absorption and a host of other biological processes. Often foods that are low in fat are loaded with sugar to make up for taste. Did you know that sugar fuels cancer cells?
For more about "Why we are getting fat?" I recommend watching this documentary.

So what can we eat?

A strict Paleo diet is based on what we used to eat during the Paleolithic era. That is, before the invention of agriculture when we used to hunt and gather for our food. Food that is made by nature and not man. The following types of food are avoided:

      • Legumes
      • Dairy
      • Grains
      • Sugar
      • Alcohol
      • Omega 6 oils and trans-fat like vegetable oil and margarine.

Yes, this includes beans, brown rice and wholegrains. But these are healthy you argue.  Yes we've been told all our lives however what is the scientific foundation of our government's recommendation. Without getting into a heap of scientific explanation, grains and legumes contain a compound called phytate. This phytate inhibits your body from absorbing nutrients, essentially deeming them useless. The only difference between white and brown bread is that brown is slightly less processed, giving it more fibre and a lower GI. But a low GI simply means you are full for longer as your body takes longer to breakdown the food. The nutrient content is much the same. Sure you can remove the phytate (Lectin) by proper preparation. For example soaking for many hours before cooking. However is it worth the extra effort when you can eat something that is much more nutrient dense with less effort? Remember our petrol analogy. This is when you decide whether you want to use premium or no frills fuel.  It's not a coincidence that food categories the Paleo Diet encourages us to avoid are those often associated to symptons such as gluten and lactose intolerance or increased flatulence. Ever wondered why you are so gaseous after that lentil soup? Or if you stomach doesn't stop growling after a meal?

At every meal regardless of whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner, the following is recommended:

      • Palm size protein. 30%
      • Fill the rest of the plate with veggies. 60%
      • A little good fat (eg. ½-1 avocado or handful of nuts) 10%

1-2 servings of fruit per day is recommended as sugar is still sugar, even if it is natural. Please note that fruit should never replace vegetables. Yes, this means a fruit salad for breakfast is not recommended. Ever wondered why you are hungry 1 hour later and have cravings for more sugar?

A Paleo Serving Plate

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Benefits of Paleo

Need more convincing? Well I’m actually not here to convince you. I just wanted to share my experience, as I believe mainstream media can be so misleading. Did you know that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an organisation that publishes health research in the USA is sponsored by the likes of Nestle, Coca Cola and Kellogs? What do you think they would say if published articles started to impact sales?  Check out this article from USA Today on how the CEO of Coca Cola justifies that coke is good for us.  Learn to critique what you read. Even what I am writing :) 

Before continuing I would like to emphasise that everyone’s experience will be a little different. To give some perspective this is what I have personally experienced since being Paleo.  

      • My hay fever and dust allergies have disappeared.  Every Spring I used to take anti-histamines. I haven’t taken these since going on Paleo. Also, I used to sneeze when it gets too dusty cleaning the house. Now? No longer an issue.
      • No more bloating. I used to feel bloated all the time. On Paleo when you are full, you are never "sick" full.
      • Heated stomach. Post dinner my stomach used to feel heated all night.  As this was the norm, I wasn’t even aware of this until I had a cheat meal after being on strict Paleo for 2 months.
      • Sleep better. You definitely sleep better. Partly related to the above “Heated Stomach” issue.
      • Lower cholesterol. I eat relatively healthy, or so I thought. Low fat, low GI, whole grains etc.  However I’ve always struggled to lower my cholesterol. And yes, I’ve always exercised so it's not just crossfit.  To my surprise after 50 days of strict Paleo, my Total cholesterol reduced from 6.5 to 5.5. A one-point movement is huge for me. From past experience this would take 1-2 years. And yes, I know we should look at the bad cholesterol component (ie. LDL) however both my HDL and LDL pre and post Paleo were in good ranges. The doctor's explanation is that there are sometimes unknown particles. The conclusion was always that it was hereditary, yet on Paleo I was able to reduce my cholesterol significantly.
      • Improved iron levels. Serum Iron from 9 to 20 without taking any supplements.
      • Lose fat, tone fast. Your body learns to use fat, as it’s primary source of fuel.  When combined with Crossfit, your abs surprisingly become visible.
      • Improved bowel movements. 
      • Significant reduction in farting. Yes, the releasing of gas is an indication your digestion is struggling to properly process the food. Everyone releases gases however too much of it could be a warning sign.
      • More energy and less afternoon lulls.
      • Reduced cravings. When I am full. I am more incline to STOP as I am satisfied. Before Paleo I would often eat 110% rather than 90%.  Craving for dessert after dinner also significantly reduced.
      • Faster recovery and improved performance for Crossfit WODs.  Read more about crossfit here.

As a side note, I’ve never gone on any diet my entire life. Thanks to genetics I am skinny and I love food too much. Can’t imagine going hungry. But on Paleo, you do not go hungry. Plus the food actually tastes heaps better. You taste the raw ingredients, not the seasoning or condiments it is coated in. Once you feel the difference it's hard to go back.

If you are interested in reading up on more success stories refer to our Pinterest Board.  If you have a story to share we would love to hear about it. Contact us now. At Wodnut we love inspirational stories.

5 Reasons to go Paleo 

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Paleo as a Template

As continually emphasised on Wodnut, we believe that everyone is different. "Bio-individuality". What works for me, may not work for you, as we are all different.  Different genetically, in age, race and lifestyle. Our motto, “First modify yourself to the practice. Then modify the practice to you”. The same rule applies here. There is no ONE SIZE FITS all.  Paleo is a great template as a starting point. Educate yourself on nutrition and build self awareness on what works for you.  

Don't be a Paleo Nazi. After your whole30, start re-introducing foods you have eliminated. However do this one by one so that you can isolate and identify which food your body agrees (or does not agree) with.  Coming from an Asian background, digesting rice is not an issue. Maybe it's all those years of evolution. On the other hand when I eat pasta or bread I do feel a little sick. I'm sure if you come from an Italian background things may be different for you. Having said this, we’ve cut out rice in our household as we now view it as a waste of space.  Who needs rice when you can have cauliflower faux rice :) Below I've pasted a food pyramid from Dr Mercola. I think this food pyramid represents more the general Paleo population and is a good guideline to eating and feeling healthy.

Dr Mercola Food Pyramid for optimal health

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And finally, remember we are all human. A glass of wine or that cheat dessert every now and then is ok. In fact it would be encouraged (i.e. post whole30). I found cheat meals made me more determined to stay Paleo. You’ll find most people are good on weekdays and then more relaxed on weekends. Whatever works for you.  Doing 80% is better than nothing. You’ll be surprised how your palate will change. Things will appear sweeter or saltier than you recall. At one point in time I decided cheat meals were not worth the cheat meal, as I was constantly being disappointed. Moral of the story? Use Paleo as a template, then test and learn to determine what works for you. Customise the Paleo Template to create your optimal diet.  Personalisation is always better than blindly following a prescription for the masses.

Quote Bio-individuality

 For more information see:

 

What Paleo means to me. Wodnut 

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